“Transformation” and Forced Religious Conversion

Chapter 2, 2010 Annual Report

The Party’s intensified crackdowns in 2008 and 2009 included enhanced measures to aggressively “transform” adherents, a euphemism for forced conversion, which has been central to the campaign against the group since its first days. Those who refuse to sign statements asserting they have given up their belief in Falun Gong face harassment, torture, and the prospect of indefinite detention. In some cases in 2009, adherents whose health had severely deteriorated were denied medical parole so long as they did not renounce their faith.

From the outset, at the core of the Communist Party’s campaign against Falun Gong has been the goal of forcefully converting Falun Gong adherents. Individuals who refuse to disavow their belief in Falun Gong are routinely subjected to torture and other abuses in detention as part of a program of forced “transformation.” In its 2008 annual report, the Congressional Executive Commission described “transformation through reeducation” as “a process of ideological reprogramming whereby practitioners are subjected to various methods of physical and psychological coercion until they recant their belief in Falun Gong.” [1] Efforts to “transform” practitioners stand at the center of their treatment by the authorities regardless of the type of detention facility, be it a prison camp, reeducation through labor (RTL) camp, “brainwashing” center (often known publicly under the euphemism of “legal education” center), or isolated mountainside torture chambers, as described by Chinese attorney Gao Zhisheng in his writings.

Central to the “transformation” process are efforts to coerce adherents into signing the “Three Statements” as proof that they have given up their belief in Falun Gong. The statements assert that the practitioner feels remorse for practicing Falun Gong, that he or she promises to give up Falun Gong, and that he or she will never again associate with other Falun Gong adherents or go to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong. Practitioners are told that should they sign the statements, they will be released, but if they refuse, they risk torture and indefinite imprisonment. In some instances, adherents whose health has severely deteriorated have been denied medical parole unless they sign the “Three Statements,” as illustrated in the following case:

Mr. Liu Qinghua, 47, Jilin: Mr. Liu from Siping was reported to the police while distributing information about the persecution against Falun Gong in Liujiazi Village, Changtu County in Liaoning. He was immediately detained along with another practitioner and taken to Changtu County Detention Center, where he was subjected to torture and contracted cirrhosis of the liver. After six months, Liu was “sentenced” in a sham trial to three years in a prison camp and transferred to Panjin Prison. His health continued to deteriorate due to the liver disease and further physical abuse, but the authorities refused to release him on medical parole because he would not sign a statement guaranteeing to stop practicing Falun Gong. Liu was finally released in December 2008. He never recovered and died two months later, on February 23, 2009.

For those who concede under intense pressure, the mental anguish of being forced to renounce one’s deeply held spiritual beliefs does not stop there. The transformed practitioner is then immediately required to not only stop believing in Falun Gong, but to turn against it. Once a transformation statement is signed, practitioners have often been taken in front of television cameras and asked to read the statement with their “new understanding” about Falun Gong for use in propaganda materials; if the statement is not satisfactorily repentant or insufficiently disparaging of Falun Gong and its founder, the process must be repeated. Then the recently “transformed” are quickly obliged to take an active role in transforming other detained practitioners, lest they be returned to intensive torture sessions themselves.

Party leaders regularly encourage lower level officials to increase their “efficiency” at transformation, stating explicitly or implicitly that this should be accomplished regardless of the severity of abuse required to achieve it. High-ranking Party cadres often directly travel to labor and prison camps to inspect the methods and “transformation rates” achieved there. A variety of incentives are used to further encourage detention facilities to pressure adherents to renounce their beliefs. These include imposing quotas or offering rewards such as promotion or monetary bonuses to camp administrators and guards who achieve high “transformation rates” at a particular facility.

Common “Transformation” Tactics

 1.   Isolation
 2.   Humiliation
 3.   Sleep deprivation
 4.   Inundation with anti-Falun Gong propaganda
 5.   Threats of indefinite incarceration
 6.   Emotional manipulation
 7.   Economic punishment
 8.   Use of former practitioners
 9.   Ideological indoctrination
10.   Physical and psychological abuse

(full list)

Sample Accounts of Transformation Efforts in 2009

As millions in China continue to practice Falun Gong, the Party’s intensified crackdowns in 2008 and 2009 have included additional measures and directives to aggressively “transform” adherents. According to an official website from June 2009 identified by the CECC:

The Assistant Director of the Jiangxi Provincial RTL Management Bureau pressed his subordinates to ‘increase awareness of the importance of this particular year to our transformation work and understand the urgency of overcoming the current low rate of transformation. [2]

A website from Sichuan province cited a January 2009 inspection by provincial Party leaders of Xinhua RTL camp, where 42 male Falun Gong practitioners were reportedly detained. RTL authorities gloated to Party leaders over the “success” of their “unique model of transformation.”3 The following eyewitness testimony from an individual held at Xinhua RTL camp from December 2006 to August 2008 provides an account of how such transformation tactics are applied in practice:

In December 2006, I was arrested again and taken to Xinhua Forced Labor Camp in Sichuan Province. In the labor camp, several guards, including Zhang Xiaogang, Shen Rui, and Zhao Jinhui, instructed Wang Yong, Xi Deyong, and several other criminals charged with drug abuse to monitor and torture me.

I was not allowed to sleep for 22 hours. I was ordered to stand against the wall for a long time until my feet were too swollen to move, then I was forced to sit on a small stool for the remainder of the 22 hours but was not allowed to move even a little. They forcefully brainwashed me and ordered me to write the three statements. They beat, kicked, and insulted me every day. I was seriously injured both physically and spiritually.

Because I refused to copy the three statements, a guard named Liu used this as an excuse to deprive me of sleep. Later, he detained me in a small, isolated room for more than a month. In the small, isolated room, regular prisoners persecuted me for an entire 24 hours while the policemen went on patrol outside.

Mr. Dong Jiahe, 50, from Xiaying Village, Neidong Township, Liangshan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan.

It is common for administrators in prison and labor camp facilities to periodically embark on intensified forced conversion sessions, often prior to a visit by a superior or surrounding a deadline for reporting a quota on the number of “transformed” practitioners. The following account, by a practitioner recently released from Masanjia RTL camp, describes one such session in the camp that began shortly before the Beijing Olympics and continued through to the beginning of 2009:

On July 28, 2008, prior to the Beijing Olympics, the Third Division at Masanjia Forced Labor Camp incarcerated in a closed area approximately 40 Falun Gong practitioners who refused to give up their belief. The practitioners were forbidden to call their families, and their families were not allowed to visit them.

A ‘Strictly Controlled Team’ was set up for the practitioners who remained resolute in their faith. They were divided into three sub-teams; one male guard and one female guard were in charge of each sub-team. The camp officials also assigned three former practitioners who had been ‘transformed’ to each sub-team. One was the head, eating and sleeping with practitioners, and the other two came to take turns every six hours to monitor practitioners. All practitioners were under 24-hour surveillance. Guards and the ‘transformed’ practitioners watched and reported their every action. They were also involved in beating practitioners.

Practitioners were forced to study the ‘Labor Camp Song’ and ‘Labor Camp Rules,’ and had to sit on a small stool for which they had to pay 8 Yuan. Everyone had to sing and recite the songs and rules. If one refused to do so or was slow in learning, the guards would beat or hang them up. If practitioners shouted, ‘Falun Dafa is good,’ they would be beaten. Sometimes, guards sealed practitioners’ mouths with tape or inserted a metal mouth opener into practitioners’ mouths for hours at a time to prevent them from speaking. Practitioners were also compelled to place their fingerprints on false statements renouncing the practice. Guard Liu Yong would beat women practitioners on their breasts or genitals.

Practitioners who refused to give up their belief were physically tortured and mentally tormented.

Li Yurong, from Dalian, 64 years old, is illiterate, but she inserted some of her own words into the labor camp rules, such as ‘end the persecution.’ Liu Yong beat her on the head, neck, and torso with a high voltage electric baton. Liu made Li Yurong read it again. She again read it as ‘anti-persecution.’ Liu beat her once more with the baton.

Liu Shiqin, a 63-year-old practitioner from Benxi, refused to sing the camp song, or recite the camp rules. She was badly beaten three times. Guards hung her up by her hands and forced her to listen to recordings slandering Falun Gong and [its founder] Mr. Li Hongzhi. Guards held her hands and made her leave fingerprints on a guarantee letter that said she would give up Falun Gong. Liu responded by shouting, ‘Falun Dafa is good’ in the dining hall. Four female guards took her out [of the room], and guard Zhang Liang slapped her in the face with a shoe. Then they hung her up for a day. When she was released her face was swollen; she could not stand straight, and her legs were disabled.

Li Hong, is a 50-year-old practitioner from Dalian, and a high school biology teacher. Since she refused to sing the camp song or recite the camp rules she was hung up and beaten with electric batons. On, the 2009 New Year’s Eve Li shouted ‘Falun Dafa is good.’ A few days later, the guards beat her with electric batons and hung her up, with her hands locked onto a metal bed, head hanging down. Her spine was distorted. People could even hear the bones grind. Her hands became black and the skin on her wrist was torn.

 


[1] Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “2008 Annual Report,” October 31, 2008; http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_house_hearings&docid=f:45233.wais

[2]  CECC 2009, pg 124

[3]  CECC 2009, pg 124

 

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